term for police box
, a small neighbourhood
building staffed by two or three policemen
The neighbourhood koban is the place to ask for directions, as Japanese addresses are notoriously cryptic to the first-time visitor. The koban is also the place to report lost property or other personal emergencies.
For those people coming from counties and societies where the police are to be feared and distrusted, please remember that the role of the neighbourhood policeman in Japan is quite different and more benign than in most western countries. It is pretty rare for a gaijin to get into real trouble with the local constabulary over minor matters. But here's a tip: don't get caught with illegal drugs.
Many koban are wonderful examples of architecture and/or decorative arts, and should be tourist attractions in and of themselves, IMHO.
FOR EMERGENCY POLICE ASSISTANCE IN JAPAN, DIAL 110.